The Doctor Who Ratings Guide: By Fans, For Fans

BBV's P.R.O.B.E.
The Devil of Winterborne

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A Review by Stuart Gutteridge 30/9/98

In this the second of the P.R.O.B.E series, Caroline John is joined by Peter Davison and Terry Molloy, both playing pivotal roles to the proceedings. The plot centres largely around the concepts of possession and trust and as such deals with them in a very "adult" manner. The spirit of Isaac Greatorex looms at Winterborne School and, as murder occurs, Liz Shaw realises that the school headmaster Gavin Purcell knows a lot more than he is letting on.

In this marathon tale, a lot more flesh is added to the bones of Liz in particular: the fact that she never got over her father`s death being an obvious example. Her relationship with her superior Patricia Haggard, played by Louise Jameson is fully explored, as is her dislike of Terry Molloy`s cliched D.I. Burke. Most surprising of all however is Peter Davison who turns in an excellent performance as the misguided Purcell; this proves to be a real eye opener, given that Purcell is a complete contrast to Davison`s Fifth Doctor. The homosexual content (actually two men sharing a kiss) is unexpected but doesn`t detract from the plot: it is actually pivotal.

This is probably Mark Gatiss` best work as a writer: every character is believable, the storyline is plausible, and most of all it is enjoyable. Recommended.

A Review by Richard Radcliffe 25/1/05

I've been looking at the previous work of some of the writers of the new Doctor Who TV series 2005 recently. As a result I have become quite a big fan of League of Gentlemen - with Mark Gatiss and his mates. I also unearthed some DWMs from 2003, with a 3 part extensive interview with the gentleman.

It was this that got me looking at BBV back catalogue, and I promptly ordered Zero Imperative, this and Ghosts of Winterbourne. This is the best of the 3, first and foremost because it's a very good story, one which fulfils the British X-Files mantra of PROBE nicely.

Following on from The Zero Imperative Liz Shaw investigates the strange witchcraft goings on at a public school. She's assisted by Patsy once again (a more involved role here), and hindered by Rutherford. It's holiday time at the school, but a few of the boys have stopped behind. The headmaster, longest serving teacher and odd-job man are also still around. Also mix in DI Burke to help with the investigation. Thus we have our players, and essentially too, our suspects.

Peter Davison is the biggest star name present here - and his headmaster Purcell role is a good one. Peter Davison is an accomplished actor, and he rises to the challenge of this excellent part. He's the consistently most wonderful thing about Devil of Winterbourne.

To assess the other DW personnel here: Caroline John is pretty good again as a middle-aged investigator, even though I still think the guest stars outmuscle her. Louise Jameson's part as Patsy deserves applause - and it's nice to see her building a friendship with Liz. Terry Molloy, as DI Burke, plays the world-weary cop well - even though the part is pretty one dimensional. Mark Gatiss plays the odd job man, a Mickey type role, who miraculously loses that stutter when called upon to do so! Gatiss deserves plaudits for the script above all else. Interesting as well to see Reece Shearsmith as one of the schoolboys - clearly his friendship with Mark Gatiss goes back a long way.

Mark Gatiss' interest in the grotesque has reached its epoch with League of Gentlemen, but there is plenty of traces of it here. I'm impressed with how he, with BBV's help of course, mapped out this drama.

I can fully endorse Devil of Winterbourne (even though it came in an irritating 2 box set) as one of the best examples of DW spin off. 9/10